Fair Use & Copyright

scaleCopyright law gives the owner of a copyright the exclusive right to distribute and reproduce their work. One exception to this is called the “fair use exception” which allows for limited use of copyrighted works. The purpose of this is to allow students, scholars, critics and others the right to reference these works in their own scholarship, teaching and critiques.

There are four factors that are used to guide the determination of whether a copyrighted work can be used under the fair use exception:

  1. The purpose and character of the use
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and ‘substantiality’ of the work
  4. The effect of the use on the potential market or value of the work

These factors can be weighed to determine whether use of a copyrighted work falls under the fair use exception. If it does, you can use the resource freely. Checklists are often helpful for this assessment.

Instructors who are creating works that they wish to share publically can consider a Creative Commons license as a way to share these works with the broader community.


Fair Use Checklist Columbia University Library (This checklist has a Creative Commons license and was created by Kenneth D. Crews and Dwayne K. Butler)

Online Fair Use Evaluator CC - 2008 Michael Brewer & ALA office for Information Technology Policy

UCSF Library Guide to Fair Use - The UCSF Library maintains this page with information about copyright and intellectual property